chapter  12
14 Pages

Mobility in England, 1816

Austen’s Emma and Repton’s “View from My Own Cottage”
WithDouglas Murray

The immobility of Emma as a person is remarkable when people compare her life to Jane Austen's own. Austen traveled widely after her family left Steventon in 1801, visiting Bath, Lyme and other south coast resorts, London, Kent and the Leigh family property in Warwickshire. Certainly, Austen is up to something in making Emma a confirmed homebody, for she is the only Austen heroine who does not travel. In contrast, the Dashwood girls are homeless exiles, covering much of southern England, Elizabeth Bennett travels as much as many picaresque heroines, Anne Elliot longs for the invigorating sea and Catherine Morland always says yes to a jaunt. It is no accident that Austen's Emma and Humphry Repton's aquatint "View from my own cottage in Essex" were published in the same year, 1816. Austen also hints strongly at the mobility caused by the turmoil of the French Revolution, the ensuing Napoleonic wars and fears of civil insurrection in Britain.